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Chevron’s carbon pollution problems continue while Minister and regulator fail to hold company to account

January 12, 2021
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Despite the failure by Chevron to address ongoing pollution problems at its Gorgon LNG facility on Barrow Island, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has refused to place enforceable limits on the amount of carbon pollution that the company can release, or require the company to provide real time reports on the success of its controversial carbon pollution injection system.

The decision by the Minister followed an appeal by the Conservation Council of WA seeking tougher conditions on the operating license for the facility, which has been plagued with problems since the giant LNG facility commenced operation.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said it was “an international embarrassment” that WA’s biggest polluter would be allowed to continue operating without any enforceable pollution limits, and that the public would be kept in the dark about the company’s pollution control efforts.

“This is a textbook case of regulatory capture where Chevron have been allowed to use their power and influence to maintain a complacent regulator, and the responsible Minister has done nothing substantive to correct the situation.

“Some outlets have reported that Minister Dawson has strengthened the license by requiring a review of conditions after ten years rather than the 20-year period originally granted. The shortening of the license period to trigger a review of the license after a decade is really the absolute minimum improvement that could possibly be made. Quite frankly it looks like a greenwash while the facility continues to operate with no pollution limits, no ongoing disclosure of its pollution, and no sanctions when it fails to meet its operating conditions.  

“The real story here is that Chevron’s much-lauded carbon capture system is failing and the State Government and regulator is allowing itself to be complicit in the release of millions of tons of carbon pollution, while the public is kept in the dark about Chevron’s ongoing pollution breaches,” he said.

Today it was revealed through Freedom of Information requests by independent media outlet Boiling Cold that the system to capture and inject carbon pollution underground at the Barrow Island facility has been curtailed only months after its delayed start, because of new problems with the carbon injection wells. Previous estimates suggest that delays and technical issues have resulted in at least 7 million tonnes of additional pollution being released.

“The lack of disclosure of and public reporting in this license allows Chevron and others in the oil and gas industry to maintain the claim that carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be a viable solution to their pollution problems,” said Mr Verstegen. “In reality, the world-first CCS facility on Barrow Islands has been plagued with technical problems, mismanagement, and regulatory failure from the very beginning.”

“The original approval for the Gorgon facility requires Chevron to provide alternative offsets for carbon emissions that the company is unable to bury underground, however Minster Dawson and the regulator have failed to take any action to enforce these conditions or require the company to provide alternative offsets.

“Right now, hundreds of jobs for West Australians could be created offsetting at least 7 million tons of carbon pollution that has already resulted from Chevron’s failure to comply with its conditions.

“Projects like tree planting, carbon farming, renewable energy and other initiatives could be delivered by the company right now, but instead those jobs are being denied and millions of tonnes of pollution are being released because our State Government is afraid of taking any effective regulatory action against WA’s biggest polluter.”

Media contact:  Giovanni Torre – 0437 167 087

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